Charming Hoi An

Hoi An has surpassed Tokyo and Rome to become the world’s best city of 2019 voted for by Travel+Leisure magazine.

A world’s top emerging destination

Hoi An is an ancient town located on the Thu Bon river in Quang Nam province, only 30 km south of Da Nang. Called Faifo by westerners in the past, Hoi An used to be a busy international trading harbor which accommodated commercial ships from Japan, China, Holland, Spain and India. The town was also an important stop on the silk road at sea.

Hoi An is known as a living museum which keeps intact the urban architecture and lifestyle of a typical traditional trade port in East Asia. Most houses here were built from the 17th to 19th centuries with the traditional architecture of the Vietnamese. Intermingled with these old houses are religious architectural structures, including pagodas, communal houses and clan ancestral houses built in the formation and development of this ancient port city.

Peaceful Hoi An by the side of Hoai river. Photo: Tat Son

Hoi An has the typical Vietnamese traditional architecture. Photo: Tat Son

Tan Ky house in Hoi An is recognized as a national relic. Photo: Thanh Hoa

Mossy old alleys are an attraction in Hoi An. Photo: Phong Thu

An old antique shop in Hoi An. Photo: Tat Son

Most old houses in Hoi An are designed with an air well (or inner yard) in the middle. Photo: Phong Thu

Phuc Kien club-house is a popular spot in Hoi An. Photo: Thanh Hoa

Nearly 5 million visitors came to Hoi An in 2018. Photo: Thanh Hoa

Hoi An offers tourists the most beautiful cycling routes. Photo: Tat Son

Hoi An was praised by CNN as one of the most beautiful towns in Southeast Asia. A colonial-era trade port that was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage list in 1999, the city attracted merchants from Japan, China, Portugal and France. This cultural milieu remains visible in everything from the mustard-colored shophouses to dining traditions, folk crafts and robust coffee culture.

Hoi An was recognized by UNESCO as a world cultural heritage in 1999. The town boasts 1,360 relics, including an ancient bridge, 11 ancient wells, 44 ancient special tombs, 19 pagodas, 43 shrines, 38 clan ancestral houses, 23 communal houses and 1,068 old houses.

Hoi An also led Travel+Leisure’s 2019 list of top 15 best cities in the world, scoring 90.39 points on a 100-point scale thanks to its “friendly people, vibrant food scene and culture combined with relaxation.”

The ancient city has been honored by Google Doodle as a historic town that remained largely unchanged for several centuries. The image of Hoi An with symbols of Chua Cau (or Bridge Pagoda) and colorful lanterns was featured on Google Doodle on July 16. This was the first time in the history of Google Doodle, the search engine has honored a specific landmark of Vietnam.

A food and shopping heaven

Hoi An today is no longer a busy trade port but still keeps the elegant style of the former bustling harbor. After hundreds of years, the traces of an urban port can be easily seen in the life of the people of Hoi An. Along the banks of the Hoai river, shops and markets are open from morning till night, while boats run up and down the river.

People in Hoi An are known for their trading talent and deftness. On Hoi An streets, each house is a shop selling everything, from food and drinks, to embroidery, leather goods, souvenirs, and handicrafts. The town has a street for selling lanterns, which are a symbol of Hoi An. At night, the streets sparkle with colorful lanterns.

Hoi An is an ideal place for culture explorers, food lovers and shoppers. Every year, the small town of nearly two square kilometers receives millions of visitors from around the world.

The charm of old houses seen from a rooftop cafe. Photo: Tat Son

Hoi An is also food heaven. Photo: Tat Son

Handmade leather products are among the bestselling items for visitors to Hoi An. Photo: Tat Son

An old seal carving shop in the center of Hoi An. Photo: Tat Son

Foreign visitors learn how to make a lantern. Photo: Thanh Hoa

In Hoi An, visitors can easily order garments which can be made within a day. Photo: Thanh Hoa

Hoi An is known for its lantern making craft. Photo: Phong Thu

Visitors are lured by Hoi An’s delicious but inexpensive street foods, including cao lau (noodle with pork belly and rice crackers), Quang noodles (rice noodle soup with shrimp, pork and herbs), chicken rice, Hoi An bread, khoai cake (fried rice flour with shrimp, pork, bean sprouts), dumplings, bun thit nuong (grilled pork with vermicelli noodle) and sweet tofu pudding.

The town has tailoring and leather shops which can have an order completed the next day, from a simple shirt or an elegant ao dai, to a leather bag or a pair of shoes.

Within 30km of Hoi An, visitors can explore popular tourist destinations such as Thanh Ha pottery village, Tra Que herb village, Cam Thanh coconut forest, Cham islands, My Son sanctuary, Cua Dai beach, My Khe beach, the Marble Mountains and Ba Na Hill resort.

Story: Thanh Hoa – Photos:Tat Son, Thanh Hoa, Phong Thu